Are you looking for a sandwich side other than chips? These dietitian-approved healthy sandwich sides will surely hit the spot!
In this article we share:
- What is a healthy sandwich side
- Recipes and tips for healthy sandwich sides including soups, salads, veggies, fruit, whole grains and wholesome desserts
- Tips for building a healthy sandwich and recipes for plant-based sandwiches to go with these healthy sandwich sides
Before we jump in, download your free copy of my Plant Forward Meal Guide which has tons of easy plant- based lunch ideas.
What is a healthy sandwich side?
The term healthy can be confusing, which as a registered dietitian, drives me a little crazy! But, when it comes to healthy sandwich sides we’re talking about side dishes that are:
- Delicious. I believe lunch is a meal to look forward to each and every day and the best way to do that is to eat food you enjoy that also happens to help you meet your health goals.
- Convenient. The recipes below call for simple, whole foods. If you don’t like to cook, no problem! I offer suggestions for store bought alternatives and shortcuts.
- Balanced. The key to staying full is eating meals that are a balance of protein, fiber, fat, vitamins and minerals. These healthy sandwich sides offer a serving(s) of veggies, fruits, legumes or whole grains.
- Include a variety of dietary needs. This guide includes options for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free and dairy-free eaters.
By the way, there is nothing wrong with chips! I believe in intuitive eating and know that the more you restrict eating chips, the more you will crave them.
It is just that these healthy sandwich sides offer a balance of nutrients that may keep you full for longer than chips.
Soups as healthy sandwich sides
Soups are an inexpensive, low food waste and deliciously soul-nourishing addition to lunch. There are many reasons to choose soups as your healthy sandwich side:
If you don’t feel like cooking soup, here are some healthy shopping tips:
Check canned and boxed soups for sodium content if you are watching your sodium intake. Sodium is used as a preservative to maintain a shelf-stable product.
Take a look at added sugars. Sugar is added to soups for both flavor and preservation.
Consider fiber when selecting a soup. Soups that have beans and whole grains are likely to have more fiber (minestrone and lentil are good examples). Aim for at least 3g of fiber per serving.
I love the soups from 18 Chestnuts. The soups are plant-based and feature sophisticated flavors backed by excellent nutrition. Plus, the company is woman-owned with a great community-based mission.
Dietitian-approved soup recipes
Salads and slaws as healthy sandwich sides
Fresh salads and slaw make great healthy sandwich sides because they are quick to make and endlessly customizable. Like soups, salads and slaws are a great way to use up ingredients lingering in your freezer, fridge and pantry.
Here are some tips when building a delicious salad:
Pump up the flavor: consider adding a zesty dressing or grilled vegetables for a flavor boost. Do you crave creamy flavors? Then add some cheese or a yogurt-based salad dressing.
Play with texture: think about the types of textures you find most satisfying. If you love crunchy things (like me) remember to add nuts, seeds or even tortilla chips to your salad to pump up the crunch.
Consider sweetness: adding some chopped or dried fruit to a garden salad is a great way to add sweetness without added sugars.
Try to keep your salad greens as fresh as possible. Rinse, dry and store greens properly with these great tips. Consider salad kits and blends. These can be a quick and easy way to build a flavorful salad.
Dietitian-approved salads and slaws
Fruit and veggies as healthy sandwich sides
Healthy sandwich sides are a great opportunity to add at least once serving of fruits and vegetables to your day.
Here are some tips when shopping the produce section for your healthy sandwich sides.
Remember that frozen and canned vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh. If you do buy canned vegetables, look for reduced sodium versions and try rinsing them before you eat them. Packaged fruit is a great option, too, just look out for added sugar.
Consider joining a community-supported agriculture program (CSA). A CSA means that you buy a small box of produce directly from a local farmer each week in harvest season (usually June-October). It is a great way to support your local food system and learn about new foods.
Don’t forget to cross utilize your grocery items and shop your pantry. What can you use for lunch that you are also using for dinner? Check out the Plant Forward Playbook Meal Guide for simple and proven meal prep tips.
Check out the deli section and the pre-cut section of the produce aisle. Although a bit more expensive, buying veggie sides that are already fully or partially prepared is a time saver that may just be worth the money!
Dietitian Approved Fruit and Vegetable Side Recipes
Bean-based options as healthy sandwich sides
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a weekly intake of 1 ½ – 3 cups of beans per week. There are so many good reasons to include more beans (and legumes like peas) into your meal rotation.
Beans are an economical alternative to animal proteins. They come in a variety of colors, textures and flavors. This means that there is a bean for every kind of cuisine.
Use canned beans for added convenience. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a lot of time to be cooking my own beans! Select reduced sodium if desired and always rinse before using.
Pair beans with grains. This is not only a delicious and classic way to eat beans (rice and beans, anyone?) but pairing beans with grains also ensures that your nutritional needs are met.
Beans have big nutrition benefits. They are a good source of fiber, low in saturated fats, and a good source of protein. Beans also contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, magnesium and folate along with phytochemicals that promote long term health.
Dietitian-approved bean-based recipes
Whole Grain based options as healthy sandwich sides
Whole grains provide fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants and minerals to your diet. This impressive nutrient profile means that whole grains help protect us against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and digestive issues.
Some grains, like quinoa and amaranth, are complete sources of protein making them an important contributor to plant-based diets.
In the United States, refined grain products such as flour are enriched with B vitamins. Refined grains, like white rice, fit into a culturally appropriate and nutritionally balanced diet.
Here are some tips when shopping and cooking with whole grains:
Check out the bulk section of your grocery store. You can find some great deals and buy as little or as much as you need.
Remember to season your grains. Herbs, spices, tomato paste, soy sauce, seasoned broths, furikake, flavored oils, vinegars and plain old salt are just some examples of condiments that can be added to whole grains to make them taste delicious.
Cook in bulk. Some whole grains can take a while to cook. And while an Instant Pot type of appliance can expedite the process, I always suggest cooking in bulk and freezing frozen grains in individual containers. Depending on what you are cooking, you can defrost or cook from frozen.
Dietitian Approved whole-grain packed recipes
Dietitian-approved wholesome desserts for lunch
What’s life without a cookie? While we believe that all foods–even white sugar and flour–can fit into a healthy diet–it is nice to have some “healthier” sweet options. By healthier I mean whole grains, fruit and lower sugar. Although these are not exactly a side, they still are still a great addition to make your lunch special and satisfying.
If you don’t have time to make the recipes below, here are some other ideas for sweets:
- Yogurt topped with fruit and granola
- Fruit smoothie
- Fruit and nut bars like KIND, RXBar or Lara Bar
- Dark chocolate and dried fruit
- Date(s) stuffed with nut butter
Dietitian-approved recipes for wholesome desserts for lunch
How to build a healthy sandwich
Select whole or multi-grain bread when you can. The fiber in whole grain breads not only offers great heart and digestive benefits, but also adds a hearty flavor to your sandwich. Look for the yellow Whole Grain council stamp on packaged breads to understand your purchase.
Be smart about proteins. The sodium in sandwiches can really add up with deli meats! If you do eat animal products, fish such as pouched salmon and canned tuna–are great lean protein options. Eggs and beans are also great plant-forward-friendly options.
Toppings make the sandwich. Sauces and spreads like chimichurri, hummus, baba ghanoush, roasted red pepper spread, olive tapenade, smashed avocado and so many more plant-forward toppings can truly elevate your sandwich.
Add the veggies. adding extra veggies, whether in place of meat or in addition, will add extra vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to sandwiches. Raw and pickled veggies add a great crunch to sandwiches.
Dietitian-approved healthy sandwiches
Want more healthy sandwich sides?
Healthy sandwich sides are a flavorful and nutritious way to add flare to an everyday sandwich. This round up of dietitian-approved healthy sandwich sides is a great place to start.
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